Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Wish I'd Asked Grandma

“I wish I’d asked Grandma while she was still here about the time . . ..”

How many of us have said those very words? How many of us can’t remember the details of old stories once told out on the front porch after supper on a summer’s evening? Maybe we were young when the stories were being told and didn’t think we’d one day wish we’d listened more carefully. Wish we’d taken the time to write them down.

I am preparing to facilitate a weeklong writing workshop titled Front Porch Stories. In this workshop we will be preserving those old stories we used to hear the grownups tell out on the front porch after supper. Before TV and computers folks told stories for entertainment. On a summer’s night after supper we sat out on the screened in front porch to catch a cool breeze and let supper settle before bedtime. We sipped iced tea or lemonade and talked. The little children played in the yard, chasing and catching lightning bugs. But even the children finally came to rest and listen to the stories. We had our favorites and often asked requests: “Tell us the one about Great Grandpa Latham’s ghost!” or “I want to hear about the Lizard Man!”

Some told fantastical ghost or folk tales, some talked about family history. Some told of strange occurrences in nature, freak accidents or how it was in the good ole days. All of those stories are part of our history and culture and worth preserving - writing down on paper.

Hopefully, I can encourage workshop participants to ask the questions now they will regret having left unasked after parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are gone. Then the stories are lost forever or reduced to bits and pieces of memories. We will combine writing down what we remember, interviewing relatives and old friends, researching through letters and diaries all in hopes of becoming the keepers of the stories.

Readers, I encourage you to start today writing down your family’s stories. Don’t worry that you’re “not a writer” and aren’t sure about spelling and grammar. All that really matters is getting down the stories. Fifty years from now when your descendants find and read what you wrote they won’t care at all if the words are misspelled or the commas are in the wrong spots. They will treasure the stories for the gifts they are. Hopefully your children and grandchildren will keep passing the stories down for future generations. That is what matters.

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